Southampton Still Have A Central Defensive Crisis
Friday, 20th Aug 2021 09:29
The departure of Jannik Vestergaard was not the traumatic event for Saints supporters that the media would have you believe, but the fact still remains that it is 5 years since we have had a central defence better than the worst in the premier League, when will that change.
The summer 2016 heralded the start of an issue at Southampton Football Club in the centre of defence that has still not been addressed today, both Virgil Van Dijk & Jose Fonte wanted to leave and split the fans due to publicly saying one thing, yet privately telling the club something differently, there are some who seem to think they were driven out, but the truth is they wanted to leave for differing reasons , one for glory and money, the other just for money.
Since then there have been a succession of applicants to replace them, most failed to varying degrees with only Jan Bednarek becoming a truly Premier League class player.
Bednarek though had to grow up fast in public, he had no experienced mentor beside him to talk him through games and help him learn his trade and it is to his credit that he has succeeded.
But the fact still remains that after 5 years we have failed to find a solid centre back pairing and now with the season underway again, we are no nearer solving the problem.
Jannik Vestergaard came in 2018 but was not the answer, maybe at Leicester he will succeed, he has talent, but at Saints he only showed it for a brief period in the first half of last season, his departure therefore is not a blow, that is unless we fail to replace him.
Dynel Simeu is a prospect and it is good to see that the club have already promoted him to the first team squad, but it would be folly to throw him into our defence at the moment.
Ralph Hasenhuttl likes to buy youth, but sometimes you have to bring in some old heads to lead the team, Lawrie McMenemy was an expert at doing this, his teams always had an over 30 player perhaps past his best in terms of his legs, but invaluable to the side in for their experience and ability to tlak players through games, almost be a coach on the pitch and a mentor off it.
This is exactly what we need to bring in now, our defence clearly lacks organisation and that starts on the training ground, we have a goalkeeping coach, but do we have a defensive one, our coaching staff is void of true experience at the highest level and that is another issue that needs to be addressed.
That is why I was happy to see Gary Cahill linked, Saints have four central defenders at present, the first is Jan Bednarek, bizarrely dropped at Everton, after him Mohammed Salisu has the talent but needs the experience, then comes Jack Stephens, a good club servant, but sadly not a Premier League quality central defender, a good back up and a role to play, but still part of the problem and not the solution to it.
Dynel Simeu may well break through this season, but it has to be slowly otherwise it will ruin him going forward.
We need that experience at the back, not just on the pitch but off it as well, someone who can impart the benefit of their experience on the training ground and be a leader just as much off the pitch as on it.
Why do we concede so many late goals ? The answer is simple we are disorganised and can't dig in and hold the line under pressure, teams chasing the game know that if they sling the ball in the box we will be all over the place.
With 20 minutes to go we need an old head on the pitch to hold the back line, I would contend if we had signed Gary Cahill and brought him on with 20 minutes to go at Goodison Park we would not have conceded the last two goals.
It doesn't look like it will be Cahill who will be arriving, perhaps with the money we have left from the Jannik Vestergaard transfer we can afford someone a little younger and with the ability to play more games, Phil Jones of Manchester United springs to mind, he might not be up to United's standards anymore but he would improve our squad.
These are just two examples I am sure there are more options if you scour the Premier League team lists, we do not need Nat Phillips of Liverpool a player who at 24 has played only 17 Premier League games, we need a 30 year old that has played almost twice than number.
We have promising youngsters in our back four already, we do not need another unheard of player from the Continent with plenty of potential but little experience, we need someone tried and trusted at the level we are playing and more to the point we need him now.
Why this hasn't been addressed before I am at a loss to explain, it is not just a Ralph Hasenhuttl thing, his predecessors failed to act as well, it is not even a backroom thing, Les Read is long gone, we have had time to assess the situation.
Good football sides are based on balance and players that compliment each other, we do not have that at present, we have those that lead by example but we do not have leaders of men and that has to change and it is needed in the back four.
I'm sorry if you have read this all before, I have been saying it for 5 years and nothing has changed.
Photo: Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders (Noah, Durham maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to Durham and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this When Saturday Comes blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!
[ Vote here ]